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Thousands to Benefit from Cannabis Pardons in Maryland

Earlier this week, the governor of Maryland signed an executive order pardoning more than 175,000 cannabis convictions. Governor Wes Moore stated that this pardon would affect thousands of Marylanders who had been convicted of misdemeanors, adding that it was the biggest pardon in the country’s history.

While the pardons will not result in any prior convictions being expunged automatically from an individual’s background check or allow any individual to be released from prison, advocates applauded the move because eliminates barriers to employment, education and housing opportunities. During a news conference, Moore explained that this order would also help change how both society and government viewed individuals who had been deemed ineligible from opportunities because of uneven and broken policies.

Moore also emphasized the pardons don’t erase the fact that Blacks in the state were three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than Whites, prior to legalization. Moore added that this order also didn’t erase the fact that an individual having a conviction on their record meant they had a harder time with everything, including education, employment and housing.

The state of Maryland legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2023 after voters passed a constitutional amendment the previous year. It also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2023.

Heather Warnken, executive director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the University of Baltimore, stated that the pardons were a win for thousands of individuals being afforded a clean slate to pursue employment, education and other opportunities without having to worry about a criminal conviction.

The state’s attorney general, Anthony Brown, stated that the action was long overdue and added that as a country, too much time had ben taken to try correcting the injustices of a system that was supposed to be just for every individual. Brown explained that this move was about racial justice, adding that while it applied to everyone who met the outlined criteria, it was a huge victory for African Americans and other people of color who have been disproportionately arrested, convicted and sentenced for actions that were legal now.

With the pardons ordered, the state’s judiciary is tasked with ensuring that every individual electronic docket is updated to indicate that the conviction has been pardoned by the governor. Governor Moore’s order also directs Maryland’s department of corrections to come up with a process showing a pardon in a person’s criminal record.

These pardons are a welcome step, given that it was baffling for people to remain with convictions for minor marijuana crimes, while various jurisdictions have since made policy reforms that now allow enterprises such as Green Thumb Industries Inc. (CSE: GTII) (OTCQX: GTBIF) to sell marijuana products legally.

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